Excerpts taken from the  Bioscience Colorado Magazine, 2021 issue.

“We live in a world in which the dynamics for agriculture, food distribution, travel, migration, and population growth make it ever easier for diseases like COVID-19 to emerge and affect human populations”

-Raymond Goodrich, PhD,
Executive Director, Infectious Disease Research Center, CSU

Goodrich currently heads the effort to develop a process for rapid vaccine production called SolaVAX.  Using this process, pathogenic virions are treated with riboflavin which, when exposed to UV light, acts as an “endogenous photosensitizer.” Unlike standard chemical inactivation processes, UV-activated riboflavin selectively targets nucleic acids while leaving proteins and other macromolecules intact, with native conformations.  Thus, SolaVAX renders viruses incapable of replication, but able to present a native set of antigens to the body’s immune system.  An advantage of this approach, says Goodrich, is that the resulting vaccines display a diverse array of viral immunogens rather than a single, isolated protein fragment, giving the body more options for response.

Just before COVID-19 began sweeping the globe, Goodrich’s team at CSU was pursuing international collaborations to study the utility of SolaVAX for creating a vaccine against African swine fever.  This livestock disease wreaks havoc on the nutritional and economic wellbeing of the developing world’s populations.  The collaboration had just produced its first batch of test vaccines when the pandemic changed everything. Given the circumstances, the team pivoted to join the global fight against COVID-19.

Goodrich says there will always be a need to innovate and develop novel approaches to disease prevention.  He points out that the mRNA and adenovirous vaccines at the forefront of the COVID-19 effort didn’t appear out of nowhere; the methods behind them had been developed in response to earlier threats, such as Ebola, Dengue fever, and Zika virus.  Groundwork there enabled their rapid deployment against COVID-19.

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